Last night, two separate events marked opposition to an English Defence League (EDL) support rally hosted by the Jewish Defence League (JDF) in Toronto. This is reportedly the EDL’s first foray into Canada by invitation of the JDL.
Toronto area activists quickly mobilized against this hate-fest, hand-holding event once they learned of plans by the JDL to host the support rally as fears arose regarding the impact of such a meeting on targeted communities. Please see these articles concerning EDL rallies in the U.K..
–Wednesday January 12, 2010: Fears grow over EDL city protest
–September 25, 2010: Police fear protesters plan to attack Leicester mosque
Last night in Toronto, both opposition events were held in the evening in solidarity with one another.
One event has a candlelight vigil held by “Christian Peacemaker Teams, other faith-based and secular human rights organizations … honouring struggles of marginalized peoples and our common humanity across religious, racial and ethnic identities. The vigil is scheduled as an alternate voice to a nearby rally supporting the English Defence League (EDL), a British right-wing group responsible for a wave of violent anti-Islamic/anti-Muslim street protests in the United Kingdom since 2009.”
The other event — “Evict the EDL” — was called by Anti-Racist Action (ARA) which blocked Marlee Street in Toronto, in front of the Zionist Centre of Toronto, where the support rally was being held. The objective was to make the statement that such hate rallies by hate groups were not welcome in Canada/Turtle Island.
According to an ARA press statement, “The English Defence League’s principles are virulently anti-immigrant and Islamophobic, and their street marches have resulted in violent racist attacks on Arabs and Muslims. Their rhetoric is explicitly anti-Muslim, and they hide behind sentiments of being against only ‘certain Muslims’, but this is only a cover for their widespread hatred of all Muslims.”
According to the EDL website, the group’s mandate is to oppose what it calls the application of Sharia law in the U.K..
That evening, roughly 100 anti-racist activists marched to the Zionist Centre of Toronto and held a counter rally on the street outside.
According to activist testimony, “Police pushed and shoved demonstrators, forcibly shoving them to the sidewalk, driving horses into the crowd and violently arresting four activists.
One protester was badly beaten, when police stomped him in the head and kicked him in the face. He is still being held in police custody. Two people were arrested for videotaping the arrests, one had his video camera confiscated, and he was released without charge. The other was also released without charge, but the contents of her video camera had been erased by the police.”
A police officer allegedly suffered a broken rib after being hit in the chest by an activist holding a flag staff. One police car window was also broken.
The four people in total were arrested (three were later released) and taken to Toronto Police 13 Division. Court support is currently underway at 1001 Finch Avenue. The names of those arrested have not been released by way of the activist groups involved.
In a message released after the ARA rally, “The message was sent loud and clear, no amount of police repression can prevent this movement from standing together in unity against threats to our communities such as the EDL. We will continue to send a strong message of unity and resistance against all forms of racism, especially as we become conscious in confronting the daily, systemic racism against marginalized and oppressed peoples which happens every day in this city.”
For more information, please see this Media Coop article.
For more information on the EDL, please watch this video.
For more information on the JDL, please watch this video.